If you follow me on social media, then you'll be aware that a majority of my content revolves around incorporating a sense of vibrant fashion and style with a complementing vibrant artwork or mural in the background. More often than not, it turns out that the mural or artwork in focus decides the outfit rather effortlessly and one such artist in particular who has fuelled this passion is Leah Grant. Known for her beautiful and bold colorful artwork that has been meticulously painted across walls, buildings, schools, and establishments in the nooks and crannies of Adelaide streets, Grant's work represents a distinctive design and marriage of pastel colors to create something that not only pleases the eyes but also makes one feel warm and fuzzy with happiness on the inside.
One of the most important and thought-provoking murals painted by Grant includes this piece that is tucked away in one of the side streets off Franklin Street. With the words 'flat tummy' crossed out, Grant's work invites you to ponder on what the meaning behind the word 'happiness' is - to you (the viewer). As Grant mentioned in our brief Q and A (which you can find below), I am fascinated by our quest for happiness. I've been considering where happiness is found, its duration, its departure and the waiting and anticipation for it to return. I have anxiety. Sometimes it's so dark, I can't see colour. And without colour every part of me feels empty.
Connecting with an artist like Grant, who lives with anxiety and thrives in a colorful environment (much like someone I know!), her work and I have a deep attachment, for it has this invisible power to draw its viewer into its very core and dig deep into the little details that end up making the finished piece a truly memorable experience to unravel into its smallest forms.
When it was announced that Grant was going to be throwing together an exhibition of her work, I knew that it warranted all the support and love in our little but wonderful city of Adelaide. In anticipation of her exhibition kicking off on July 7th 2021 (last night), I was fortunate enough to delve into how this exhibition came into its finished form - have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: How are you feeling about the exhibition, Leah? Leah: Lots of feelings! Scared, excited, nervous, proud, exposed and a sense of fulfillment as well. I've put so much of me into this exhibition, I've really allowed myself to be free in my style and express what has captured my attention and focused less on what I think people want to see. So it is my hope that the viewer is able to connect with that authentic story. I'm always nervous before an exhibition or before painting a mural, the self-doubt creeps in. The thoughts of "what if nobody likes it?" definitely have been rotating in my mind a bit. But I've finally come to a place where I am proud of what I've created and ready to display it.
Tema: Can you please tell us a brief story of what inspired you to create the pieces as part of this exhibition? Leah: In 2020, during Term 4 I did an artist residency at Colonel Light Gardens Primary School. I had one lesson with every class from reception to Year 7 and I found as I explained my artist story to young creatives, I was really able to refine it and sum it up quickly and simply. I basically told the students, I use a variety of materials from aerosol to photography, to watercolour, ink or gouache and all of my work is inspired by happiness and what happiness is. Being able to recognise the significance of colour in my work and my primary goal to evoke happiness has really inspired me to do this exhibition. I think it was in November 2020 I applied for the exhibition at Urban Cow and I was given the call just after Christmas to hold the exhibition during July 2021. The pieces themselves are inspired by my experience with anxiety. The shadows, sunlight and colour in each piece are very symbolic of events in my life. Some rather impacting moments that stripped away my happiness was my mum's illness as a child, postnatal anxiety, my miscarriage and a recent injury causing unbearable migraines took me into a very challenging space. So I guess, what would sum it all up is my mental health. My work explodes with colour, I desperately desire to bring colour back into my life and into the lives of others. I'm deeply empathetic and considerate of the silent challenges other's are carrying. My drawings and paintings aim to bring acceptance and hope.
Tema: What made you choose Urban Cow as the space for your exhibition? Leah: It's such a lovely community of local SA talent. I've been to a number of exhibitions here over the years. Urban Cow Studios have always been supportive of my work in their store. I've had my work on consignment there for years. I think they were one of the first places to accept my work so they are quite special to me and to me becoming an artist.
Tema: What are you hoping for visitors to experience (seek) from viewing your pieces? Leah: Connection and understanding. I want the viewer to take time to connect with the work. I hope they discover something new within themselves. It is my hope that the colours and layers refresh, challenge and consume the viewer. To reflect on where they find their happiness and what they are actively doing to seek it.
Tema: How long did it take you to put your pieces together? Leah: It's been six months of planning, painting, creating, drawing, destroying, restarting, experimenting and refining. I have put so many hours day and night into this exhibition. Throughout the whole time, I have had so many eye-opening experiences as I've worked within this theme. For instance, I started drawing the shadows on a eucalyptus leaf and was totally enthralled with this. It didn't occur to me until a few days later how it related to the way I live with anxiety and the way that light moves and shadows shift. It's always changing, sometimes it's barely there at all, sometimes it's so dark I can't see the colours. But it always, eventually lifts. The leaf remains intact, still beautiful, unique and a joy.
In addition to the colorful exhibition, Grant will also be running several workshops for adults, teens, children, with opportunities for the target audience to hone their artistic skills under Grant's supervision and expertise. All the workshop dates and details can be found here.
Leah Grant's exhibition Seeking Happy will be on display at Urban Cow Studio from July 7th - 31st, 2021.
Leah Grant's full artist statement can be found at the exhibition, but has also been attached below for reference. I am fascinated by our quest for happiness. I've been considering where happiness is found, its duration, its departure and the waiting and anticipation for it to return. I have anxiety. Sometimes it's so dark, I can't see the colour. And without colour, every part of me feels empty. I first recognised my anxiety when I was diagnosed with post-natal anxiety. I've since realised that the deep knot in my stomach, that irrational crippling fear wasn't just nerves as a child. I was anxious. When I was in Grade 6 I was told my Mum would die in year. I remember hearing that information and having no idea how to process it. I wasn't afraid of death, I didn't understand death. But I was anxious and I didn't like how that felt. I have frantically sprinted as far away from that as I possibly could. Seeking happiness in the moments I could have with my mum, in the sunshine, in the flowers, in the rain, in friendships, in marriage and in having kids. My life looks perfectly happy. My smile is big. My heart is full. My family is wonderful. I'm deeply appreciative of all I have. Despite it all, I have anxiety. Running from it, ignoring it, hiding it and not talking about it doesn't take it away. This body of work holds a strong connection to what I feel, where I've come from in my childhood, what I've experienced as a mother and what I've lost and always will grieve for.